|Date(s):||January 7, 1842 to January 9, 1842|
|Location(s):||WEST FELICIANA, Louisiana|
|Course:||“Rise And Fall of the Slave South,” University of Virginia|
On January 7, 1842, Bennet Barrow went to town to get supplies in his Cab. When he left the cab, two friends, Amanda and Miss Crab of Tennessee, jumped in it and went off without Bonnets only to return one hour later from a nearby swamp. Amused, Barrow got in, turned the cab around, driving his friends to visit a Mrs. Wade. There he met up with six other friends. After piling his friends into two cabs, the group went off in search of more people. Not finding anyone at home, the group went to Barrow's plantation where they sent for the neighbors, ate dinner, and then danced all night by the Piano & Violin. The next day Barrow refused to let any of his friends leave, insisting they instead rest, nap and pla[y] smut until night when the dancing began again. Barrow hired a violin player and the friends danced until twelve o'clock, when their consciences made them refuse to dance any Longer. But Barrow rejected such politeness, and he instead jokingly punished them for it fasten[ing] the doors 'till near two; his guests played with him, pretending to be upset by blowing out candles, trying to escape through the windows, and doing any thing, but dance until they all went to bed at two in the morning. The third day everyone had Long and weary Looking faces; they were all sad that it was Sunday and that the fun of the past two days was over. The events were recorded in Barrow's diary, in which he wrote that he had never enjoyed [himself] as much as at the sudden and so perfectly free [and] easy and happy visit and dance.
In both Southern and Northern society, formal fashionable calls were made during calling hours during daytime and were made between slight acquaintances or people who were part of one's social circle but with whom one was not especially close, while sociable calls, such as the one at Barrow's plantation, were usually informal occasions between friends and relatives that were made during the day and often extended into the night.
Fashionable calls expressed a society in which a network of people-mostly women whose place was the social sphere-had to be maintained among people who did not necessarily know each other very well or even like each other. Calls were made and returned in order to keep in touch with one's neighbors and community. If a person was called upon, than that person was expected to return that call. Fashionable calls could also be used to demonstrate social class and acceptance. If one was not invited to another's house or did not have one's calls returned, then this could be considered a social slight; a social slight usually meant that one was not accepted into polite society. Social slights were sometimes committed against who did not meet the particular standards of manners that a community might have. For example, a young lady of good family and a wealthy background who was raised in the country might be slighted in a city society whose manners were more sophisticated. People whose families caused scandal were the often the subject of gossip; for example a woman whose husband often became drunk in public would cause societal scandal and censure however high up that family may have previously been socially. Slights were also committed against families-again mainly against women by women-because they were considered to be of a low class family background. A girl who married above her social station, or whose mother or grandmother had done so, could still be censured by the society she married into. These fashionable calls expressed a requirement to maintain a polite society and also served as means to let people know their place in the social hierarchy.
Informal sociable calls, like the one portrayed in Barrow's diary, were much less complicated and much more fun. These calls were made between people who knew each other well enough to carry on long conversations about mutual interests and friends and who liked spending long periods of time in each other's company. Informal calls usually consisted of parties of close friends and family in a non-threatening, relaxed atmosphere; the main goals of these calls were usually pleasure instead of politeness. Many parties were the last moment results of these informal calls with large collections of people being gathered to dance. Some of these dances were arranged on the day when they took place and others were planned far in advance. For both, musicians would be hired to provide music and people would come from far away to attend. In the North, they also had corn huskings, quilt parties and barn raisings that provided opportunities for friends and family to gather together and enjoy each other's company.
Calls, house parties, balls and other social get-togethers were important in nineteenth-century society because they allowed people to expand beyond their own domestic space. In the South, these visits were especially important because they allowed planters and their families respites from the loneliness and isolation of their plantations. Social occasions were important because they allowed people a chance to get beyond themselves, to meet their neighbors, feel connections to the community, and to have some fun.